Serial recall was studied in children with language impairment and two groups of normally achieving controls: a group matched for age and a younger group matched for reading and memory capacity. Participants were presented lists of digits that were one item longer than their memory span, in conditions requiring either written or oral recall. Digit lists were presented either with or without a final nonword item, or "suffix," that was capable of interfering with memory for items at the end of the list. The main finding was that the list-final suffix effect was substantially larger than normal in children with language impairment, even though other aspects of their recall were normal. This deficiency in children with language impairment was evident only under a scoring system that credited recall of items in their correct serial positions, not under scoring systems that credited memory for the presence of items or their sequence. Results are interpreted according to the hypothesis that children with language impairment are more dependent upon relatively unanalyzed acoustic and phonetic representations of speech than are other children.
KEY WORDS: memory, language impairment, auditory processing, cognition
Submitted on January 11, 1994
Accepted on August 9, 1994